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Advanced Arcana $4.99 $3.74
Average Rating:4.8 / 5
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Advanced Arcana
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Advanced Arcana
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2012 10:06:55
Advanced Arcana begins with an in-character introduction before talking about the new sort of spell included, namely the segmented spell, which is very powerful spell that requires multiple spell slots and castings to activate. There are also a variety of spells that allow the caster to recall expended spells which is an interesting design choice allowing for some interesting options, and quick spells whose effects vary based on how much time is used to cast them, also an intriguing design choice.
Many of the new spells, almost a third, are 7th level or higher which -to my mind- rather restricts their utility and two of the 1st level spells have their duration based concentration which drastically restricts their usefulness. While, like most spell lists, they are mainly combat focused there are a few non-combat spells in the mix as well.
Advanced Arcana really shines for me in its supplementary material: Eight new clerical domains, while Force was unneeded, the domains of Creation and Vermin are full of possibilities. Four new Sorcerer bloodlines, one for each of the classic D&D genii types (Dao, Djinn, Efreet and Marid in case you have forgotten). Eight new Focused Wizards schools allow for further specialization, though the choice of Idiocy (for wizards who can inflict Intelligence loss at higher levels) as a school name is a bit odd. Lastly, there are eight new familiars including animated objects, newts, skeletons and bonsai! All quite fun and could lead to some very interesting interactions.
There are a lot of useful tools here for GM and player alike, but it seems unlikely that you will want to use all of the options available here.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Arcana
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/14/2011 13:33:09
Many of the spell-products that have been released over the years are extensive collections of spells that are mostly just variants of existing spells with perhaps something new strewn into the mix. It's rare and unusual to find a product that doesn't just present new spells, but takes things a little further. Advanced Arcana Volume I (which is something of a misnomer as the product also contains numerous divine spells) is such a product that presents three new spell types and the spells that go along with each new type. It's much more than a book of spells though, as it covers other new additions such as sorcerer bloodlines, cleric domains and other useful material for the Pathfinder Roleplaying game.

Advanced Arcane is a 59 page color pdf product, very well presented with some good quality art and layout. The background is a little dark for my tastes, but that's an entirely subjective opinion. While the vast majority of the product is mechanical in nature, it's partially presented from the perspective of a wizard well versed in the lore of the spells presented. As such, there are many pieces of conversational prose in the product, that both make an entertaining read as well as provide useful and beneficial information about the product to the reader. Both the mechanical and fictional writing are very good, as is the editing. The mechanics is also solid. It should be said though, as is highlighted in the product, that this is a product of rare or unusual spells, and as such their power levels may be beyond what one would normally be used to. DMs are encouraged with good advice to be judicious in handing out the spells in this product.

As mentioned, this product is about spells, but more importantly perhaps about three new spell types. The first is the segmented spell, which is essentially a spell that requires multiple castings to complete and one that can be completed co-operatively. There are a number of cleverly crafted versions of these spells, and naturally if they're actually cast can be quite deadly. This kind of spell also acts very well as a plot hook, and as such it's probably best if they do exhibit almost exorbitant levels of power. The second type of spell is the fountain spell, which when cast allows you to recall a spell of lower level in addition to the effect from the spell itself. This is clever in that it extends the mage's arsenal, while at the same time not increasing their power. Lastly, the third spell type is a modal spell, which has different strengths depending on the amount of casting time put into the spell. All these types of spells combine well to create additional possibilities for spellcasters of all classes.

I was quite pleased with the selection of spells presented and the implementation of the above types within them. There are a lot of fun and quite entertaining spells there. Xelar's Prismatic Sphere is a wonderful visual spell, for example, where the wizard's body explodes each round with a different part of the standard prismatic sphere. Such spells, when used properly, can be devastating and highly visual, but more importantly offer extensive subtext for plot hooks and story arcs. Overall this is a wonderful selection of new spells and spells types, perhaps a little on the powerful side, but understandably so. A solid product that's well worth a look if you want to increase the versatility of your spellcaster or as a DM to use the more powerful spells as a campaign arc or story incentive. Neat product.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Arcana
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/23/2010 10:07:59
This pdf is 59 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page credits, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover.

That leaves 53 pages of new arcane, not a bad bang-to-buck-ratio, so let’s dive in.
The pdf starts with one page of in-character introduction to the book in the form of a letter as well as 3 pages of introduction that explain the new concepts introduced in this book. The explanation is an awesome read, using foot-notes and a nice pseudo-academic tone I always associate with mages.
After that, we get 2 pages that explain the new concepts of segmented spells (spells that take up more than one spell-slot, but are more powerful), which is one of the most elegant solutions for e.g. cooperative ritualistic casting I’ve seen so far and quite frankly, I’m astonished why no one has had the idea to do so until now. There are also quick spells, spells that can either be cast fast or as a regular spell. We also get spells that refresh spell-slots for the casters. Another side-bar on the page has some optional rules to handle spells from non-core books like this – the ideas are nice and work fine: I’ll be using them for all 3pp products in the future!

After that, we get 5 pages of spell-lists and after that, we get the 65 new spells.
I’m going to list the number of spells that are added to each class:
-Alchemist: 2 spells
-Bard: 19 spells
-Cleric: 25 spells
-Druid: 18 spells
-Inquisitor: 4 spells
-Paladin: 2 spells
-Ranger: 3 spells
- Sorceror/Wizard: 57 spells
-Summoner: 4 spells
-Witch: 10 spells
The description of the spells take up 24 pages and are quite interesting. Apart from one orison, none of the spells felt boring, unimaginative etc. – They are quite frankly almost all killer, no filler. I’m usually not a friend of spell-sourcebooks, but these spells, especially the segmented ones, fill a niche that has went unattended for too long. None of the spells felt too powerful or useless and none duplicate lame effects and have their niche.
The first Appendix is 8 pages long and depicts a cool in-character description on how the book was compiled – being an enjoyable read, this section also doubles as a nice set of adventure hooks for further research of the spell-concepts packed into this book.

Appendix 2 features 8 new cleric domains. (3 pages)

Appendix 3 details 4 Djinni-related Sorceror Bloodlines: Dao, Efreet, Djinn and Marid. (3 pages)

Appendix 4 introduces 8 focused schools for wizard specialists.

Appendix 5 features 8 new familiars, the animated object, the hedhehog, the newt, the poisonous frog, the rabbit, the skeleton, the turtle and the bonsai tree! Yep, the bonsai tree familiar. Awesome idea!

Conclusion:

The editing, layout and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any typos or glitches. The book is full-color and parchment-style and features artwork that ranges from fair to beautiful. I haven’t seen the artwork before and really liked most of it.

I did not expect much of this book, to be honest. I was expecting another moderately-inspired compilation of spells. What I got was something completely different: The writing, both fluff and crunch are inspired, segmented spells are an elegant, easy way to implement rituals, quickened spells are useful and I like the concept of spells that let you regenerate minor spell-slots. The appendices add to the overall appeal and feature some nice ideas. For 5 bucks you get an EXCELLENT book on the arcane that is truly “advanced”. The only true gripe I have with this book is, that there is no printer-friendly version included. Advanced Arcana I gets the Endzeitgeist-seal-of-approval nevertheless – I rate it 5 stars. Detract a star if you want a printer-friendly version. If you want some cool, fresh edges for your casters, check this out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Arcana
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/23/2010 10:07:59
This pdf is 59 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page credits, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover.

That leaves 53 pages of new arcane, not a bad bang-to-buck-ratio, so let’s dive in.
The pdf starts with one page of in-character introduction to the book in the form of a letter as well as 3 pages of introduction that explain the new concepts introduced in this book. The explanation is an awesome read, using foot-notes and a nice pseudo-academic tone I always associate with mages.
After that, we get 2 pages that explain the new concepts of segmented spells (spells that take up more than one spell-slot, but are more powerful), which is one of the most elegant solutions for e.g. cooperative ritualistic casting I’ve seen so far and quite frankly, I’m astonished why no one has had the idea to do so until now. There are also quick spells, spells that can either be cast fast or as a regular spell. We also get spells that refresh spell-slots for the casters. Another side-bar on the page has some optional rules to handle spells from non-core books like this – the ideas are nice and work fine: I’ll be using them for all 3pp products in the future!

After that, we get 5 pages of spell-lists and after that, we get the 65 new spells.
I’m going to list the number of spells that are added to each class:
-Alchemist: 2 spells
-Bard: 19 spells
-Cleric: 25 spells
-Druid: 18 spells
-Inquisitor: 4 spells
-Paladin: 2 spells
-Ranger: 3 spells
- Sorceror/Wizard: 57 spells
-Summoner: 4 spells
-Witch: 10 spells
The description of the spells take up 24 pages and are quite interesting. Apart from one orison, none of the spells felt boring, unimaginative etc. – They are quite frankly almost all killer, no filler. I’m usually not a friend of spell-sourcebooks, but these spells, especially the segmented ones, fill a niche that has went unattended for too long. None of the spells felt too powerful or useless and none duplicate lame effects and have their niche.
The first Appendix is 8 pages long and depicts a cool in-character description on how the book was compiled – being an enjoyable read, this section also doubles as a nice set of adventure hooks for further research of the spell-concepts packed into this book.

Appendix 2 features 8 new cleric domains. (3 pages)

Appendix 3 details 4 Djinni-related Sorceror Bloodlines: Dao, Efreet, Djinn and Marid. (3 pages)

Appendix 4 introduces 8 focused schools for wizard specialists.

Appendix 5 features 8 new familiars, the animated object, the hedhehog, the newt, the poisonous frog, the rabbit, the skeleton, the turtle and the bonsai tree! Yep, the bonsai tree familiar. Awesome idea!

Conclusion:

The editing, layout and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any typos or glitches. The book is full-color and parchment-style and features artwork that ranges from fair to beautiful. I haven’t seen the artwork before and really liked most of it.

I did not expect much of this book, to be honest. I was expecting another moderately-inspired compilation of spells. What I got was something completely different: The writing, both fluff and crunch are inspired, segmented spells are an elegant, easy way to implement rituals, quickened spells are useful and I like the concept of spells that let you regenerate minor spell-slots. The appendices add to the overall appeal and feature some nice ideas. For 5 bucks you get an EXCELLENT book on the arcane that is truly “advanced”. The only true gripe I have with this book is, that there is no printer-friendly version included. Advanced Arcana I gets the Endzeitgeist-seal-of-approval nevertheless – I rate it 5 stars. Detract a star if you want a printer-friendly version. If you want some cool, fresh edges for your casters, check this out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Arcana
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/19/2010 21:33:44
I find that, in most instances, books of new spells are among the hardest things to review. That’s because there’s no cohesive theme for the book (save for the obvious) – it’s a collection of individual components, and so you’re forced to review in broad strokes since you can’t go over every individual spell. With Necromancers of the Northwest’s new book, Advanced Arcana, I was fortunate not to have that problem, for reasons that I’ll outline below.

For the record though, if I’d had to review this book in sweeping generalizations, I’d probably have gone with something along the lines of “made of win.”

Advanced Arcana is a fifty-nine page PDF for the Pathfinder RPG. Ostensibly a book of new spells for the game, it also contains related elements such as new domains, bloodlines, and familiars. As the name hints, it takes into account the recently-released Advanced Player’s Guide, as it has spells and spell lists for the new classes from that guide as well as the more traditional spellcasting classes.

From a technical standpoint, the book hits most of the marks that I’ve come to expect from quality PDFs. Nested bookmarks are there, for instance. However, I ran into some trouble when to word search – which often skipped over words – and trying to copy-and-paste from the book. For some reason, when highlighting large sections of text (e.g. paragraphs) portions of the selected text would be missing, and trying to copy and paste the text that was selected produced weird (and I do mean truly cryptic) results – obviously, this is a flaw in the book’s production, but the sheer weirdness of the copy-and-pasting results almost make it seem like I’m trying to copy the Necronomicon or something. It’s perhaps the coolest error I’ve ever seen in a PDF.

The cover image is a variant of the Necromancers of the Northwest logo, a recurring motif in their books. Beyond that, the pages are all set on a cream-colored background, as though written on parchment. Just over a half-dozen illustrations are sprinkled through the book, each by a different artist but all of them quite good. I was very impressed with the props that the Necromancers gave to their illustrators. Each is mentioned in conjunction with their piece of art on the credits page, and hyperlinks go both to the artwork in the book and to the artist’s deviantart page. Way to recognize the talented people who contributed to the book!

I confess that I was surprised at the book’s three-page opening. Beyond a one-page letter from a father sending this book to his son, there’s then a fairly hefty in-character foreword talking about what drives a wizard to seek out and create new magic. It’s certainly an interesting read, and does a great job laying the foundations for what to expect from the book, but it’s almost bizarre that so much emphasis was given to this opening flavor text. I suppose I’m not used to that much intro; I’m certainly not used to it being presented in-character.

But enough about that, what was I saying before about the spells in this book being themed? Well, I’m glad you asked.

There are slightly over five dozen new spells here, a considerable amount. What makes Advanced Arcana interesting though, is that it doesn’t just throw a collection of new spells at you and be satisfied with that. Rather, there are three different types of new spells here.

The first are the “quick” spells. These are spells that give you the option of casting them as an immediate action, but if you cast them as a standard action, usually last longer or have greater power. It’s a great way to build in variability without having to resort to multiple spells that are almost identical, or utilize metamagic. I personally love having mutability and multiple options built into an individual spell, so these immediately went to the top of my “must use!” list.

The second type of new spells are “fountain” spells. These are relatively high-level spells that, in addition to their basic spell effect, also restore a low-level spell. Cast rejuvenate on someone, for instance, and they’ll not only recover hit points, but also several spell levels’ worth of spells, for instance. Now, most of the people I know would read the previous sentence and already be screaming “unbalanced!” However, there’s inherent balancing factors in these spells – the base effects are weaker than expected for their level, the spells that are restored in this way must be used relatively quickly, and you can only gain back a spell you’ve used in the last day. These are multi-effect spells that don’t tip the balance of power for spellcasters in the game (any more than they’re already tipped, I mean).

The third type of spells here are “segmented” spells. Thematically the opposite of fountain spells, segmented spells are high-level spells that require multiple castings to take effect. That is, simply casting these spells once won’t do it – you need to cast the spell multiple times over, either preparing it more than once or spontaneously casting it more than once, for it to take effect.

The trade-off here is that these effects are more powerful than spells of their level usually would be. You may need to spend three of your ninth-level spells casting create replicant over and over, but doing so will grow a clone that has its own soul, for instance. Segmented spells seemed slightly too close to incantations for my liking, but still present an innovative new option for stronger-but-balanced spells.

Of course, none of these spells dominate the book. Each is roughly a handful of the new spells presented here, with there being plenty of “typical” new spells for characters to use. And even here, the Necromancers did a great job of presenting new materials. A spell that creates dozens of magic missiles to orbit you as a defense, but also lets you erode that defense by firing some of them at your enemies? Genius!

After this are a series of appendices, the first of which is a second in-character discussion of the book. Weighing in at a whopping eight pages, this discusses the lengths the author went to to create Advanced Arcana, complete with footnotes. It primarily concerns his tracking down other mages (the ones who’re the names in the named spells) to solicit their creations. Again, it’s impressive, but between the foreword and this, almost a fifth of the book is dedicated to the in-character narrative. It’s very interesting, but I have to wonder if it would have made a better web enhancement, or if there could at least have been some accompanying new stats (for the eponymous wizards, perhaps).

The next appendix details eight new clerical domains. These are good, covering staples that the guys at Paizo somehow overlooked thus far, such as Shadow or Vermin. However, while I feel a bit greedy saying how I wish there was more, I do – specifically, I wish there’d been subdomains here. Subdomains, from the Advanced Player’s Guide, swap out a domain power or two for one with a more specific theme. That could have been here, but wasn’t. Perhaps in a future article in the Necromancers’ website?

New sorcerer bloodlines follow in the third appendix. There are four here, one for each kind of genie. There’s little further exposition I can give, save to note with some wry amusement that they kept “dao” for the earth-based genies, despite that slot being given to the new “shaitan” genie in the Pathfinder RPG.

The fourth appendix covers “focused” wizard schools, and it was this chapter that eliminated most of my guilt over asking for new subdomains for the clerical domains presented earlier. Why? Because these are wizard subdomains. That is, these are eight alternate wizard school abilities, one for each school, that follows a narrower theme within that school. For example, if you chose the conjuration school of magic, you can take the summoning focused school, which trades away two of the non-summoning powers of that school for two new powers related to summoning creatures. It’s actually a nifty idea, and again I wish there were more of them, since there’s plenty of untapped potential here.

The last appendix in the book presents eight new arcane familiars, and its here where the Necromancers really show off how they’re crazy geniuses. Most of these familiars are fairly standard in that they’re new animals (e.g. a bunny rabbit, a turtle, etc.) but there’s a few that are just off the wall, such as the animated object, the human skeleton, or my personal favorite, the bonsai tree. None of these familiars have stat blocks, instead referencing existing stat blocks and noting the appropriate changes to make. Interestingly, each has a paragraph of expository text describing them, which generate some interesting ideas. Maybe that skeleton familiar is your ancestor ceding you their body to watch over you, for example. Good ideas really make this last section come alive.

Overall, I really got a kick out of this book. While it did have length narrative fiction, the occasional error (I’m looking at you, quickshade), and sometimes lacked something I wish had been included, these small problems were utterly drowned beneath the weight of the gold mine of new ideas this book presents. New spells, new types of spells, new familiars, focused schools of magic, new familiars – and all of such great innovation that I can’t wait to start adding what’s here into my game, and you won’t be able to either. Advance your arcana with Advanced Arcana!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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